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Testing Woes In Nursing Homes Continue As Trump Administration Provides Limited Testing

Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that nursing home staff should be tested weekly for the coronavirus. The Trump administration said it would provide rapid, on-the-spot testing kits to those facilities across the U.S. But things have changed.

There are 148 nursing homes in Arizona alone. The government said it would start shipping the kits to facilities in the coming weeks. That was last month.

Christopher Laxton is the executive director of the Society for Post Acute and Long Term Care Medicine, which represents long-term care professionals.

"And then there always was a question about how much, how many test kits would go out," he said. "And it turns out that they're providing enough for two rounds of testing on staff and one round of testing on residents."

And that’s it. Laxton says arrangements have been made so nursing homes can order their own tests from two manufacturers.

"What we don't know is is their supply chain adequate to provide enough test kits," Laxton said. 

As KJZZ reported last month, ongoing testing is key for long-term care facilities to open their doors to visitors again. 

I'll also be up to nursing homes to order additional testing kits. Another challenge facing nursing home staff is learning how to operate the tests correctly.

"You know, these are not easy devices to operate," says Laxton. "And CMS is not doing any training, they're relying on the companies to do the training. So what we hear is that some people don't really know how to use the devices, they look at the training, and it's sort of I guess, it's online modules."

Residents and staff of nursing homes account for as many as four in 10 coronavirus deaths.

→  Read The Latest News On The Coronavirus Disease 

Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.